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The Life of Roger Langdon by Henry Clifton Lambert



With Additions by his Daughter Ellen



[_From "Whitaker's Almanack" for 1895, under the heading "Progress of Astronomy."_]

Mr. Langdon, station-master at Silverton, on the Great Western Railway, a self-taught astronomer, died on July 18, 1894. Mr. Langdon made in his spare hours an 8-inch silver-on-glass mirror, grinding it on a machine of his own construction. In 1872 he contributed a paper to the _Monthly Notices_ of the Royal Astronomical Society on "The Markings of Venus."


The writing of this foreword to the biography of the late Mr. Roger Langdon should have devolved upon one of the notable personages who had an admiration for him and his work, but unhappily they have all, or nearly all, passed away. Unquestionably the person best fitted for the task would have been the late Rev. H. Fox Strangways, rector of Silverton during the period when Mr. Langdon acted as station-master there. They had a very cordial liking and respect for each other, and Mr. Strangways could doubtless have imparted a personal and intimate touch to this preface which would have been very valuable.

When Miss Ellen Langdon desired me to undertake this portion of the work I felt honoured, though diffident. A feeling that it was my clear duty to pay any mark of respect I could to the memory of this worthy man decided me to accept her invitation.

My acquaintance with Mr. Langdon dates back to a few years before his death when my father was general manager of the Great Western Railway and Mr. Langdon was still at work at Silverton. My father's attention had been called to the personality and attainments of the Silverton station-master, and as I was at that time doing a little journalism in odd moments it was suggested that I should run down and write something for the _Great Western Magazine_, which I was very pleased to do.

At that little wayside station just on the London side of Exeter I therefore found myself one summer afternoon. The village of Silverton, distant two miles from the station, was not visible, and the principal features in the immediate vicinity were the station-master's house, with the front garden between it and the station, and in the front garden a circular iron building with a cone-shaped revolving roof, which, I found, was an observatory sheltering a telescope for celestial observation.

The tall, slightly stooping, white-bearded old station-master at once arrested attention. A dignified, patriarchal type of man, with a kindly, pleasant and simple manner, he was evidently much averse to all forms of affectation and cant. I was quickly made welcome and introduced to his wife and well-ordered home.

We were immediately on excellent terms. I remember the eager pride with which he showed me his beloved telescope and its mounting and accessories, including the sidereal clock, and how I gazed under his direction at the heavenly objects which the night disclosed. The evening we spent together was a very memorable one. Mr. Langdon recounted the hardships and adventures of his career, and gave me an insight into the manifold difficulties and obstacles he had overcome in attaining the means of observing the celestial bodies in which he took so absorbing an interest. He also displayed for my amusement the ingenious church with chimes and other works of his hands.

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